White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that the crisis in Ukraine was extremely dangerous and that Russia could launch an attack on the country at any time.
The top diplomat on US President’s team, Joe Biden, will visit the capital Kiev this week after talks with Russia last week ended in a stalemate, amid concerns in the United States and other Western nations that Moscow is preparing to invade Ukraine again.
The Biden administration is weighing new options, including providing Ukraine with more weapons to resist Russian occupation, to try to increase the costs for Russian President Vladimir Putin if he decides to invade the country.
The discussions – described by various sources – reflect a feeling of pessimism in the government, following last week’s diplomatic talks with Russian officials that have yielded no progress – and with Russia continuing to increase its strength levels in recent days.
In addition to considering how to help the Ukrainian military and government avert an invasion, the US is evaluating options to bolster the ability of Ukrainian forces to resist a possible Russian occupation. This includes potentially providing the Ukrainian army with additional ammunition, mortars, Javelin anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft missile systems, which would likely come from NATO allies, a senior US government official told CNN.
The news comes ahead of a face-to-face meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday. A senior State Department official said the scheduled meeting “suggests that perhaps diplomacy is not dead.”
President Joe Biden has said sending US combat troops to Ukraine to wage war with Russia is out of the question. But special operations forces are already circulating in and out of the country to provide training to Ukrainian forces, and a senior government official said it is possible that other agencies could provide some support, most likely the CIA.
CIA Director Bill Burns traveled to Kiev last week to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and discuss the risks to Ukraine, a US official said.
“We are looking at a number of options to help defend Ukraine,” a government official told CNN. This could include additional sales of defensive weapons, “advice” and “helping Ukraine stay in the fight against a larger conventional Russian military presence.”
The deliberations on supporting a resistance campaign reflect an increasingly pessimistic view within the government about Putin’s willingness to invade and occupy large swaths of Ukrainian territory. Russia has increased force levels since Friday, the top government official said.
“Let’s be clear. Our opinion is that this is an extremely dangerous situation. We are now at a stage where Russia can at any time launch an attack on Ukraine,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.
“And what Secretary Blinken is going to do is point out very clearly that there is a diplomatic path ahead. It is up to President Putin and the Russians to decide whether they will suffer serious economic consequences or not.”
At the moment, military sources familiar with the planning say there has been no official change to Washington’s guidance, and officials have stressed that these are initial considerations that have not yet been formally presented to the president for approval. Some members of the administration are afraid to get involved in an anti-occupation support effort and argue that US forces must leave if war breaks out.
increase in pessimism
US officials left meetings in Europe last week even more pessimistic about what Putin could be planning, and how limited the West’s influence is to stop him.
As recently as last week, Biden administration officials were carrying out exercises tossing all possible US and allied policy responses, sources familiar with the planning told CNN. Senior US officials also spent much of the weekend in high-profile meetings to discuss the way forward, a senior State Department official said.
The US continued to say that diplomacy is “crucial” and that negotiations will continue. But there are no details on what the next diplomatic steps will look like, and Russia has been scaling back its diplomatic presence in Kiev, in what a US official said was threatening and worrying for the US.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday denied that it had begun evacuating diplomatic personnel, saying “the Russian embassy in Kiev is operating in a standard manner.”
Meanwhile, Pentagon officials have been crafting options for how the US can help fuel a sustained resistance campaign in Ukraine and inflict the greatest possible costs on Russia after any invasion, according to sources.
The CIA continues to operate a U.S. intelligence-gathering training program for Ukrainian special operators and intelligence officials, they told CNN current and former employees familiar with the program. The program was first reported by Yahoo News.
A CIA spokesperson dismissed any suggestion that the program helped train a Ukrainian insurgency on hold, but former intelligence officials familiar with it say the program includes the kind of secret paramilitary training needed to gather intelligence in a zone. of war.
“The purpose of the training, and the training that was given, was to help with intelligence gathering, not an insurgency,” an intelligence official said.
Putin’s plans are still unclear
US officials still don’t know what Putin’s plans are, or whether he has already decided to invade. Some officials who have seen the intelligence say there is evidence that Russia is planning to try to take Ukraine’s capital Kiev and overthrow the government.
The deployment of forces from Russia’s Eastern Military District to Belarus on Monday struck many American officials and Russian military analysts as particularly threatening, as did a series of cyberattacks against Ukraine in the past week.
But others believe Russia is more likely to launch a more limited operation in eastern Ukraine to secure a land bridge to Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. A false flag operation, accusing Ukraine of provocation and using it to justify an invasion.
As with the Biden administration, Ukrainian officials have not concluded that Putin has made a decision, a Ukrainian official said, adding that negotiations in Europe had no discernible impact on the crisis. Meanwhile, the buildup of Russian troops along Ukraine’s borders – and in neighboring Belarus – continued to grow.
“We see it’s not slowing down, it’s ongoing,” the official said. “It’s still not enough to make a full-scale invasion and sustain it, but it’s still a lot.”
As part of the preparation, Russia has deployed more aircraft close to the border, which has raised fears of a significant air component for an eventual invasion. Two to three dozen Sukhov-34 fighter jets joined helicopters stationed near Ukraine, the official said.
Ukrainian defense officials are in daily contact with American colleagues at the Pentagon, the source said, bracing for a variety of different actions the Russians may take.
“We have prepared an answer for each scenario,” the official said. “We will fight if something happens. Our people are ready to fight. All windows will fire if [russos] enter into.”
“Everyone who is willing to fight will and will be given a gun for it, like in 2014,” the official continued, adding that individual “reservists” who have received some training will simply have to apply to a recruitment office.
Asked where the weapons for these reservists will come from, the official said they would come from NATO-backed Ukrainian stockpiles. “Material support from partners will also go to them,” he said.
With input from Reuters’ Trevor Hunnicutt and Jarrett Renshaw and CNN’s Alex Marquardt
This content was originally created in English.
Reference: CNN Brasil